When Fire Marries Gasoline*

This marriage should have caution tape around it.

Yeah. It’s sometimes a bit hazardous over here at my house.

What if I told you there were a few times in 23 years I drove off in my car and plotted leaving but just couldn’t find the nerve?

Marriage isn’t a subject that I often write about. Not because I don’t know stuff. It just feels weird because marriage (lived out) is about as variegated as the number of plant species in the world over- far too many ways and means and methods for any type of rubber stamp approach. Let’s face it, whether you’ve been married 2 months or 4 decades, it remains a bit of a mystery how 2 individuals unite as one unit and (mostly) cohesively live life together.

Now add into the mix two driven, high strung, high energy, “perfectionistas” and crap- it gets kinda messy at moments.

Some days I find it nothing short of a miracle that we’ve made it this far intact (and IT IS a miracle of God’s grace and mercy).

Picture this- a nice intense crackling fire. Close by sits a red can full of gasoline, almost near enough to combust at any moment. That’s us- fire and gasoline.

“You cannot settle something without fighting about it.” That is what I said when we were first married. I’m fairly certain he thought, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?!”

And so, for the first portion of our marriage we did a fair share of that. Equally head strong and heart strong with a splash of misconstrued marital bliss and a dash of young naivety.

Then somewhere half way in, I changed God changed me in some pretty huge ways. It was slow and excruciatingly painful. Yet it morphed all of me, including the wife part.

So there I was, far from where we had begun, in new uncharted territory, getting a kind of “relationship do-over”. It felt exhilarating and frightening all at once.

Without any pretense or know-it-all-ness, I can tell you it is possible to live within combustion range. What is equally crucial are both separate time and together time; time to pursue things we love and time to pursue our love.

To differ vehemently also takes the bigness to embrace the differences; “fight” hard and fight to preserve the treasure you’ve been given. Prize clear, honest communication above all else.

I got married for life. When I signed my name on that certificate, I really signed my name before God to do everything I (rather mechanically) said in those vows.

And I’ve learned that as complex and challenging as it is to live near combustion, fire and gasoline are equally beneficial to each other. Uniting one substance to the other creates a better, hotter, sustainable fire.

That’s us- better together, even with an occasional need for caution tape.

*This title was inspired by the Sia song, “Fire Meet Gasoline”.

My Heart Belongs To…


As I watch my teenaged kids grapple and claw at this concept, I am reminded of my own struggle: ten steps behind the popular chick, never quite the 4.0 dork nerd, not even close to the jock girl, always wishing I could embody the dark, emo girl, but sadly, I was none of those.

Everywhere I searched, I was rejected: never quite “bad” enough or “good” enough or “pretty” enough or “weird” enough (although some would argue with that last one).

The quest is tangible yet elusive. It starts somewhere around the age of self-awareness and resides within us (although less so- hopefully) until we draw our last breath. We want to belong somewhere with people who understand us. In 80’s speak, we want homies.

Whether we do it intentionally or not, we seek out others who are like us and there we find it- identity. Once found, we smile a little more. It’s like an inner sigh of relief that, finally, we can be totally accepted, at home, at peace, ourselves.

But it doesn’t last long- ever. Life emerges beyond high school and lo and behold, we become collegiates or spouses or parents or party animals. One set of groups is left behind and whole new set of them appears. Funny enough, our identity morphs like the changing vibrant colors of a fall leaf- again and again and again.

With all this hullabaloo about Valentines Day and the focus on love, romance, sex, etc, I recognize the very human desire to “belong” to a significant other and in an earthly sense, that’s a good thing because belonging also carries with it commitment, loyalty, and an “I got your back” mentality. We don’t say, “BE MINE” for nothing.

Trust me, I’ve tried adhering my identity to lots of things and people- spouse, children, hobbies, groups, religiosity. None of it works, for long. My heart has been broken by everyone just a little- even myself. With each fracture, my identity crumbles and the search begins anew- to find that entity who will love and accept – NO MATTER WHAT.

I am certain of this: the ONE PERSON our heart can be given to in completeness, totality and surrender is Jesus. He will not abandon us: leave us when lose our coolness factor, ignore us when we become vulnerable, discard us when we are “used up”. He is the one safe place where our identity can be trusted unequivocally, irrevocably, eternally.

My life (identity) is hidden with God through Jesus Christ. No one, no change in circumstance or station in life can ever take that away. He is mine and I am His, much better than any Valentine.

At 40

It’s no secret and I‘m not ashamed to say it- I turned 40 this year. Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling it some days, mentally and physically. Every once in a while, I catch a look at my reflection and think, “Ay Carumba, I’m getting the gizzard neck!” Time for more Oil of Olay Night Firming Cream (as if that does anything for the inevitable) or sometimes I might just be an itty, bitty tad forgetful.

But I am not writing to play a sad song on my pity violin about the woes of aging. Instead, am celebrating 40! I mean isn’t it cool, the catch phrase we can now assuage ourselves with at the turn of each new decade: 40 is the new 30, 60 is the new 50 et al.? It makes no sense but it sure makes us feel better!

So, six months into this phase called “MIDDLE AGE”, I think I’ve learned a thing or two. While I know I have yet to arrive at some upper echelon of enlightenment, I do think that a few lights have come on (even if they are just night light bulb sized). So, at 40:

  • I wear what I want, what makes me feel comfortable, what I think looks good. High heels are hellish and I refuse to wear them. If someone thinks I dress “too young”, too bad. I still want a pair of Converse in every color and sometimes, I even wear my daughter’s clothes. It’s not like I am going around in a crop top for the entire world to see my lovely stretch marks that crept up my sides when I was pregnant.
  •  My friendships are deliberate and meaningful, deep and loyal. Life is short, so why waste time on some, whiny, over dramatic, manipulative woman that adds nothing to my life but another pain in the A? I love the fact that I have a variety of friends in all age groups, walks of life and religious persuasions. I’m done with overly zealous, backbiting gossips, quick to judge people.
  • Parenting is the most DIFFICULT job in the world. I went into it blindly and naively, depending on the opinions of others instead of God and my own good common sense. I was dead wrong about a lot of things, right about a few and still down on my face in prayer about most things. Every stage and phase brings a new set of challenges. This I am sure of- your parenting won’t look like mine and vice versa. If your kids turn out A-OK, PLEASE do not break your arm patting yourself on the back or smear it in my face. Likewise, if they turn out “different than expected”, don’t razor strap yourself with a burden of guilt. These are people with a will of their own, not a piece of Jell-O that I mold just how I want and they stay like that for life.
  • Marriage is a strange beast. I went into it with a textbook mentality and I am here to say- THROW THE TEXTBOOK TO THE WALL! (No, I do not literally think marriage books are not helpful.) My marriage has taken twists and turns that were wholly unexpected. Nothing could have prepared me or warned me of the issues we would have to duke out. Yet, my marriage is, this side of heaven, the pinnacle of delight in my life. At the risk of sounding cliché, I do consider my husband, my best friend and confidante. Yet, I speak my mind to him as he does to me and sometimes this does not bode well. Such is life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
  •  I am unapologetic about my faith. It is the sum total of why I do what I do, how, when and where. I do not bow to the whims and fancies of man’s theological ideals. I do not ascribe to mere rules taught by other Christians. I think for myself with an abiding sense of awe for God’s word, holding to this as my highest authority; not because I am a weak-minded zealot but because I am convinced that if not for God being LORD of me, I would be dead or at very least in a shambley mess of a life (messier than the one I’m in).

At 40, there are a good many things I’ve learned, a good many things I hope to learn and a constant sense of keeping my fingers on my own pulse. I’m smarter than I was in my 20’s and more confidant than I was in my 30’s.

I’m not dead yet. In fact, I’m feeling rather invigorated, happy and ready to fight the next monster that comes around the corner called inevitable.

I Still Do (part 2)

The next ten years have been what they call, “the best of times and the worst of times.”

Enter a 30 year-old mama, finally out of my “baby days” and heading into a brighter future. Enter a 37 year-old hubby who is about to hit mid-life. Crisis pending.

Yet, what I gained in confidence and knowledge through my 20’s, I seemed to lack in applying it to daily moment-by-moment life. I found myself easily overwhelmed and often frustrated, with myself and my family.

One day, we up and decided to move out of state. WHAT WERE THINKING? Oh, alas, we seemed to have checked our brains at the door of  “keeping up with the American dream- living better & bigger”. This proved to be (despite the wonderful blessings of beautiful, lasting friendships formed), where God would dig up the weeds in our lives- spiritually and martially speaking.

Now, this uprooting of things was, to put it nicely, a little bit of hell. Remember the duty driven wife of my 20’s? Well, just like duty driven Christianity, it gets old quick. It breeds resentment. This is because it lacks depth and richness of meaning. Any husband or wife can go through the motions (even while still being madly and deeply in love) yet, miss the mark completely. That was me.

Enter a 34 year-old broken mama- broken down by years of selfishness, depression and {self-imposed} violated expectations. God had his way with me. The weeds were pulled out and it hurt- a lot.

Here are the pervasive things that got yanked out: being- the perfect, model Christian wife, the Martha Stewart homemaker, the genius-raising home schooling teacher and more. I stopped trying to find fulfillment in my  “perfect” husband, awesome kids and American dream life and started FULLY, with reckless abandon, worshipping the ONLY ONE DESERVING my worship- GOD.

This transformed my marriage in ways I could never have imagined- even if I had read every “how to be the best wife” book I found. It breathed renewal, hope and new meaning into the vows that had been tangled up in the craziness of life.

Enter a 40-something husband whose career had taken unexpected twists and turns. Mid-life had set in and this was one weed that grew rapidly, with deep roots dating back to younger years. Sparing all the gory details, it was an unpleasant season for us both. My husband had to come to his own reckoning with the living God and it took a great amount of loss and humbling.

But God makes things beautiful in His time and although it is not the path I would have chosen to walk, He walked it with us- moment by moment.

The forward-looking journey of our 20 year union, is filled with so much hope, deeper abiding faith, and a friendship that is stronger than ever. Our commitment to walk through life together in sickness, health, good, bad, plenty, want and forsaking all others until our last earthly breath, still stands.

Our story isn’t over, but unlike the rather idealistic “love conquers all” beginnings, you will find written on the pages: struggle overcome by grace, stubbornness overcome by forgiveness, violated expectations overcome by fulfillment in Christ alone and two sinful people loving each other wholeheartedly and passionately.

I Still Do

IMG_2340There is a picture in our room that reads:

“Marriage is a bouquet of beautiful moments.”

Yes and no.

Enter a 19 year-old- naïve, idealistic, romantic.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t one of those girls belting out, “Someday My Prince Will Come”, into my hairbrush, twirling around with a dreamy far off look in my eyes. In fact, I wasn’t looking for my prince at all. Then all of a sudden-SHABAM! – there I was saying “I do”.  Those two words meant something I could never have comprehended that sultry day in May, 20 years ago.

You see, those simple words pack a punch. Things come at you that you’d never dream or expect, both good and bad, while you are still standing there with rice in your hair.

They say the honeymoon period lasts a year, ours might have lasted a few hours. Yep. Remember, I am a hard headed, often opinionated woman who resisted the ideas of mutual respect and honor from the get go. Yes, I knew that was what I was supposed to do, but yeah, I guess I’m not good at conforming.

Enter a 28 year old- mama of 3 under six years of age. Craaaazy busy time- heavy on the crazy!

As we approached our 10th year of marriage, I looked around and thought, “I think I have the hang of this wife thing.”

Yes and no.

You see, the hubby and I have this little joke that I am more of a fighter than a lover. (Which isn’t REALLY so much of a joke- ahem.) I like a good tussle now and then, but sheesh, sometimes it seemed like we could not go a week without a major issue. Call it sleep deprivation or whatever. I was hyper sensitive, a wee bit of an attention hog and just plain difficult at moments. With 3 kids in tow, the stress of maintaining a marriage was overwhelming- a demand that I answered often in a dutiful way.

Pause the scene. Here I will interject a bit about sex. If you are reading this and under the age of 18- you were warned.

{Sex is an integral part of what makes a marriage strong. Excluding any physical limitations, it should be practiced liberally, honestly, passionately and selflessly. Just like every other part of marriage, it is an always evolving process that will morph throughout the seasons of life. But, it is in all honesty, the intimacy building  glue that keeps the other aspects of marriage fit together securely.}

OK. Back to marriage. And duty. I was plodding through the moments, savoring some, hating others. Those intense years of birthing babies, nursing, potty training, toddler training and the beginnings of home schooling left me depleted- mentally and physically. The poor hubby often got my leftovers, which were a bit cold, stale and frankly probably a bit “unappetizing”.

But he loved me anyways. I loved him back. We carried on. Committed, forging ahead. Confident of more sane years ahead.

Holy Schmoly… were we in for some surprises.


(To be continued) 🙂

May (in a nutshell)

This month has been a strange mixture of very good and very bad.

First, the very good:

My Love and I celebrated 20 years of marriage- a feat in this modern day world- a world that tries to make marriage look a like fairy tale, but when the magic wears off, the spouses move on to the next chapter in the story.

Our celebration was comprised of a few lovely dinners, a two-day get away sans kids and a bouquet of red roses and white carnations. We were able to spend many moments reflecting on our lives together- the not-so-pretty days, the precious, beautiful days, as well as our future together. I was humbled and awed remembering all that God has brought us through. Looking forward to 20 more years walking hand in hand with my best friend by my side.

But as you know: Life can change in a moment.

{Think of all the people whose lives have forever been altered just this week by the horrendous tornados. They had only 15 minutes warning. That’s it.}

I had no warning for my bad news.

It was dropped on me like a bomb: one of my children had been deceiving me for months. It was like the world stood still and in a few moments, scenes from this child’s life flashed before me like clips from a movie. Stunned. Incredulous. Hurt. Angry. All the emotions washed over me in a nano-second.

It’s pretty much been a living hell- not going to lie.

So as we have been sifting through, the garbage heap left behind the lies, I have experienced what I consider an astounding amount of self-realization. Maybe, just maybe if I share, you will be able to relate. (Or maybe this is just a cheap form of therapy for me J)

 – I have spent too many years self-deluded about parenting- seeing it as some sort of chess game, where I am the player, moving the pawns (aka- my children) exactly where I wanted and they’ve stayed. Now all of a sudden, they are able to move themselves, taking initiative, make decisions independent of me. I don’t like it. Not one bit. Sad to say, I have reacted like that poor sport, the one who, in a fit of rage, takes the board and topples it over, upsetting the entire game.

– My brain turns to mush when I am under great duress. I have truly had scary moments when I felt that I had been struck with an early onset of dementia. I have forgotten more than I’ve remembered these past few weeks. Quite disturbing actually.

– I am and always will be a hopeless mess without Jesus to hang on to.  I am messy enough WITH Him.  He is my SALVATION- rescuing me not only from myself, but also from the wrath that I deserve when I let my messy, sinfulness take over. He is my ROCK- when the ground all around me turns to quicksand, waiting to devour me heart and soul. He is my FORTRESS- my protection against the enemy’s wily schemes to destroy the very faith that makes me who I am. So, so incredibly thankful for this one unmovable, constant relationship!

– I have a few great friends in my life who love me enough to suspend judgment, give me a listening ear, pray for me, bear the struggles with me and point me to hope.  I have been blessed beyond measure in this area.

Although I am not at the end of the difficulty, I am confident in the future because I am sure of this: I am loved and cared for by God Himself. Psalm 17:8 “Take good care of me, just as you would your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

Be Still My Heart (or how I fell in love)- part 2

He "put a ring on it"! May 15, 1993
He “put a ring on it”!
May 15, 1993

After recovering from what was a moment of shock over our age gap, my next thought was, “Oh boy, what would my parents do if they knew how old he is? Doubtful they will let me go out with him again. They have always told me to watch out for older guys!” Surprisingly, when I did return home later that night, I climbed into my mom’s side of the bed and told her all about my evening. Her response? “You are going to marry that boy!” 

Our first date led to a second. This time we went to the beach on a blustery fall day. We talked and talked and talked some more. Then he took me to a lovely dinner at the Cheesecake Factory overlooking the Marina Del Rey harbor. I tried pinching myself because this seemed like something from a dream. He was way too kind and godly. He treated me like a perfect gentleman- something I had never experienced before in my short dating life.

I was scared. He was “too good to be true” kind of a thing.  After a month, I felt myself falling for this guy, badly. He invited me to our school’s Christmas musical and that’s when I dropped the “I just want to be friends” bomb.  What else could I do? I wasn’t prepared for these kinds of feelings and I wanted to run away from them. Besides, falling in love didn’t fit into my career future.

I figured with that declaration, he would move on. His friends told him to be done with me. But (the little problem was) I still had to see him everyday- in class, in the library, all over campus. And here is where the story changes: in every encounter after that fateful evening, he was STILL kind, STILL thoughtful, STILL a gentleman, STILL forgiving. He didn’t shun me or give me the silent treatment. He didn’t shoot me hateful looks or send rude notes.

My heart was in angst. I wanted NOT to be attracted to him, but I found the very opposite happening. His character and godly attitude in the face of my selfish immaturity literally stunned me. Is he for real? I mean, who does this when a girl has written him off? Sure, maybe he was just being a persistent guy, but it was more than that. He showed me how to behave when someone treats you badly. He exemplified love in a way that no one else had ever done.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself inexplicably drawn to him. I slowly began to relish every moment we were in the same room. I hoped we’d “bump into each other” so we could talk again. Before he left for home over Christmas break, he slipped a flower and card into my on-campus mailbox. My heart went pitter-patter again- this time for all the right reasons- all the reasons that go beyond physical attraction or first date “schmooziness”.

And as they say, “The rest is history”.

Well, not really because this is real life and not some pie-in-the-sky fairytale romance. Yet, despite all the complexities of human relationships (and trust me when I say, we’ve had some VERY MESSY, stinking rotten, sinful moments), twenty two years later, I am still in love with this “for real” guy. He has proven to be a friend that loves in all times- good/bad, happy/sad. He STILL charms my heart with his thoughtful character and he is STILL pretty dang good-looking too! 🙂